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Porsche 356

Porsche 356 (Germany, 1948-1965)

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In July 1958, Porsche sent a letter to all its foreign representatives, stating that the four-year-old, bare-bones Speedster, which had been designed specifically for the Western markets of the United States, had not been well-received elsewhere. A new model was forthcoming for 1959, and it would be manufactured by Karosseriewerke Drauz, of Heilbronn.

This would be the Convertible D, which was introduced as an interim step before the arrival of the 356 B Roadster in 1960. The new car would offer buyers Speedster-like styling, but it added such amenities as a wind-up door glass in place of side curtains, a taller windshield, a better top, and a more luxurious interior. New and larger teardrop-shaped taillights would replace the earlier “bee-hive” style lamps, and U.S. cars were fitted with front and rear bumper guards and over-riders. Porsche sales literature described the new Convertible D as “a dynamic car of beautiful proportions. Extra light and low in design for competition and pleasure driving.”

The 356B is iconic today, but in 1959, it made a distinct stylistic break from its predecessor, and it took time for universal acceptance. Many of the changes were practical: body engineering chief Erwin Komenda raised the front and rear bumpers about four inches, to a more useful level. He raised the headlamps as well, which dramatically increased the throw of light in night driving. These alterations also allowed for improved cooling of the highly improved water-sealed aluminum brakes, which were widely considered to be the best in the world. The basic platform was otherwise unchanged, including the carryover 1,582-cubic centimeter, flat-four engine. That, however, was soon enhanced with the Super engines, which provided more horsepower, primarily at high rpms.

The 356Bs underwent continual change during their short run from 1960 to 1963, including the introduction of a Karmann-built hard top as a 1961 model. A substantial revision in 1962 gave the 356 a new internal designation, the T6, and a Karmann-built coupe replaced the hardtop and was joined by a coupe built by Reutter. Thanks to its large glass area, this four-season edition offered the best visibility of any model with a roof; it has spacious accommodations and is the 356 of choice when rain or cold is a possibility.



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